Helpful, but…However, what’s emerged from our coverage over the past few years is that they’ve also genuinely been a source of helpful advice and support, even inspiration, to many business owners. We’ve been genuinely surprised, each time the axe has hovered over them, by the enthusiasm they provoke among their supporters. That support, however, is mirrored by ridicule among other business owners. “What a waste of money” is the usual, somewhat glib response. What probably did for the Business Links was Doug Richard’s review of business support, released a year or so ago. Doug, never one to pull his punches, proposed that the whole network be put online. This is a new digital world, he insisted, and public services must be reinvented in that image. The Conservative team, knowing that public-sector cuts were inevitable, licked their chops at this easy, wounded prey. And so, yesterday, small business minister Mark Prisk confirmed their fate.
Strength in numbersOne thing is clear from the range of responses: whether or not they love the Links, Britain’s small business community sees itself as one. Business owners, owner-managers, entrepreneurs, SME directors, whatever description you prefer, feel very strongly about creating the right environment for other independent businesses to flourish. For some, startups must be supported by free, publicly sponsored advice at point of inception; for others, established mid-sized companies must be left absolutely alone to create and attack new markets. Younger, digital-native entrepreneurs, want their information entirely online; others benefit from ongoing face-to-face, peer-to-peer networks.
Our solution: youWe at Real Business are a classic SME: 14 years old, 55 employees, battling recession, adapting to the new media age. Great team, great ideas, lots of challenges – from everyday problems of finding great people to reaching our longer-term vision. From the autumn, we’ll be making our own contribution to the opportunity/vacuum in business support by creating the Real Business Network. We’ll be giving readers the chance to join the UK’s largest, most influential community of independent-minded businesspeople. You’ll continue to receive and, I hope, enjoy your copy of Real Business. You’ll be able to join us at a series of focused networking events, targeted directly at what you need as a leader of a growing business. And, through our live, online 10,000 Champions database, we’ll be building the definitive directory of Britain’s most dynamic entrepreneurs.
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